Costuming despots and innocents

If you’ve watched Liberty and Justice: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free, you’ve seen the history lesson near the end with morphing costumes of iconic authoritarian figures through time. Later in this post, I’ll show process photos of some of the costumes. But first, I want to say a little something about the Woods Hole Film Festival, where our film had its film festival premiere last week.

Thank you to all of you who came out to see Liberty and Justice! The sold out crowd sat through over an hour of serious, heavy and powerful short films, in sweltering conditions, before our movie came on. It was an endurance test, for sure! The sense of relief was palpable when the Wee Folk Studio animated logo appeared, with cheering loud enough to drown out the sound effects. Other than showing the movie to friends at our house, we had not yet experienced a live audience’s reaction in a theater setting. As the story unfolded, there were bursts of laughter, even at some of the more subtle jokes. Rob and I whispered to each other, “They got it!”. It was fun to hear giggles and gasps of recognition at the various characters as they played their parts. We came away feeling that the year we spent filming in the basement was worth it and that we are very honored to be a part of such a prestigious film festival right in our home town. My favorite comments were that it was “fun and deliciously weird” and “the darkest cute movie I’ve ever seen.” 

I am also excited to announce that our film received an Audience Award for best animated short at the festival awards party last night. Rob and I almost didn’t go because it was past my bedtime, the music would be too loud, etc. But, I’m glad we pushed past my old lady complaints and went anyway!

And now the costumes. Let’s start with the innocent protagonists, Liberty and Justice, who are modeled after Hansel and Gretel. With a few exceptions like their hands and feet, their bodies are made the same way as the dolls in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk.

This is the title set, where I animated Liberty dropping bread crumbs (stone cut oatmeal) in the shape of letters. The dolls’ wire armatures help articulate movements with tiny bends and adjustments. Their heads are loose, so they can swivel back and forth on their pipe cleaner necks.

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It was very helpful to refer to the monitor during filming, so I could see the camera view. At 24 frames per second, I moved the figures about a 16th of an inch or less for every shot.


And now for the despots.  After researching various kings and dictators, I picked ones with clearly identifiable uniforms, mannerisms and ruthless reputations. Researching and making their costumes was a liberating experience, as I confronted and engaged with these iconic strongmen. There’s something satisfying and even subversive about having bad guys cut down to size. We loom large over them, as they are exposed and held captive in miniature scale and for a moment, their power is diminished. I’m sure you can guess who some of these are. Please see the rolling credits at the end of the movie for a list of characters in order of appearance.

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19 thoughts on “Costuming despots and innocents

  1. My words feel so inadequate to express my admiration for your exquisite work. Your talent is beyond my range of superlatives! I LOVE your posts. Thank you, for sharing your work with us through this blog. I live too far away to attend the events showing it. Hope you’re enjoying summer on the Cape. Take care. Fondly, Mary in Maine

  2. Sorry we missed the live showing, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching it at home! We feel lucky to know such talented people! Carry on! 👍🏼💜

  3. So awe-inspiring to see more of the props and details that you have so artfully created and used in this delightful, thought provoking, adorable and frightening short animated film! My words cannot express just exactly what it is about this film that intrigues me. Could it be hope? Could it be exposure? Could it be a look into our current political system? I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Love it!

  4. Oh Salley I wish I’d been there to see the audience reaction to your film. How brilliant!! I think humour is a powerful way to deal with awfulness and bleak times! Your work has an ever increasing sophistication and depth.I love seeing your works, and those gorgeous characters.Can’t wait to get your new book.Your books are by my armchair and I often look through them,They make me smile, and give me so much enjoyment! Thank you dear lady!

  5. Hi Salley,

    Congratulations. I’m sorry I was out of town and couldn’t go. Where will your film go next?

    I now the feeling well about bedtimes and too much going on. Glad you persevered and wonderful about the award!



    • Thank you Susan. Along with large embroidered pieces (Displaced, etc.), photographs of satirical scenarios and a display of movie props and characters, the movie will be shown in my exhibit Liberty and Justice: The New Art of Salley Mavor at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA, September 9 – October 31, 2018 — Artist Reception: Sunday, September 9, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

  6. I wish your little film could be seen by more people–such a labor of love and was such a breath. of laughter while you were creating the characters and scenes week by week. There are so many resistors and persistors who would love it!!

    • Thank you Janet. Yes, it would be great to spread the movie around more. I am so busy working on this book that I hardly have time to do movie promotion. I encourage you and others to share the link on my site. Soon, we will be putting it on YouTube so that it can be more readily shared.

  7. So happy for you. I was with you in spirit and hope that I will have the opportunity to see it on the big screen. Art lives!

  8. How could one scroll past a subject line like that. When I was reading the post I was thinking there’s a market for girls wanting to make subversive dolls. Next book idea.

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